Skip to main content
Social Sci LibreTexts

6.05: Chapter 27: Strategies For Conducting Research

  • Page ID
    \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)\(\newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)


    Chapter 27: Strategies For Conducting Research

    Rebekah Bennetch, Corey Owen, and Zachary Keesey

    Learning Objectives

    By the end of this chapter, you should be able to:

    • Key Terms and Concepts
      • You have arrived at the final part of the planning phase of your report: conducting the research. You’ve already done a lot to get here. So far, you have:
        1. Now it’s time to start doing the actual research!

          In this chapter we will explain the two types of research—primary research and secondary researchthat you should be doing for your report, and give you tips for conducting research online.

          What is Research?

          Research begins with questions. You’ve already started this process by going through Bitzer and Aristotle. Odds are, as you did so, more questions came up that you were not sure how to answer, and that’s okay! Doing the actual research will help you answer those questions. However, as you start acquiring sources, it’s important that you are mindful of the two types of research that can be conducted for a report.

          Primary v. Secondary Research

          Primary research is often first-person accounts and can be useful when you are researching a local issue that may not have been addressed previously and/or have little published research available. You may also use primary research to supplement, confirm, or challenge national or regional trends with local information. Primary research can include:

          • Secondary research is what many students are most familiar with. This type of research generally requires searching libraries and other research institutions’ holdings. Secondary research requires that you read other peoples’ published studies and research in order to learn more about your topic, determine what others have written and said, and then develop a conclusion about your ideas on the topic in light of what others have done and said. Some examples of sources that might be used in secondary research include:
            • It is rare to see a persuasive argument that doesn’t include both primary and secondary research. Let’s look at an example. Say you are interested in using STEM knowledge to improve the quality of life for the homeless population in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The most successful project would use both secondary and primary research. The next two sections will demonstrate what this might look like.

              Secondary Research in Action

          Do you need to include it all? Absolutely not.

          What matters is that your strive to include both types of research in your reports. This is because the strongest research—and most persuasive arguments—blend primary and secondary research.

          Where Do I Look?

          Now that you can distinguish between secondary research from primary research, where do you find them?

          In the 21st century, we generally turn to the internet when we have a question. For technical, scientific, and academic research, we can still turn to the internet, but where we visit changes. We will discuss a few different places where you can perform research including Google, Google Scholar, and your university library website.

          Google and Google Scholar

          The default research site for most students tends to be Google. Google can be a great starting place for a variety of research. You can use Google to find news articles and other popular sources such as magazine articles and blog posts. You can use Google to discover keywords, alternative terms, and relevant professional, for-profit, and non-profits business and organizations.

          The most important thing to remember about using Google though is that search results are organized by popularity, not by accuracy. Further, because Google customizes search results based on a user’s search history, searches performed by different people or on different browsers may provide slightly different results.

          For many technical, scientific, and scholarly topics, Google will not provide access to the appropriate and necessary types of sources and information. Google Scholar, however, searches only academic and scientific journals, books, patents, and governmental and legal documents. This means the results will be more technical and scholarly and therefore more appropriate for much of the research you will be expected to perform as a student.

          However, while Google Scholar will show academic and technical results, that does not mean that you will have access to the full-text documents. Many of the sources that appear on Google Scholar are from databases, publishers, or libraries, which means that they are often behind paywalls or password-protected. Do not pay for these documents! There is a good chance you will be able to access them through the University library.

          University Libraries

          The University of Saskatchewan Library has access to databases, peer-reviewed journals, and books that are generally the best choice for accurate and more technical information. A Google search might yield millions and millions of results and a Google Scholar search may yield tens or hundreds of thousands of results, but a library search will generally turn up only a couple thousands, hundreds, or even dozens of results.

          You may think, “Isn’t fewer results a bad thing? Doesn’t that mean limiting the possibilities for the project?” The quick answer is yes, fewer results means fewer options for your project, but no, this does not mean using the library limits the possibilities for a project.

          Overall, library resources are more tightly controlled and vetted. Anyone can create a blog or website and post information, regardless of the accuracy or usefulness of the information. Library resources, in contrast, have generally gone through rigorous processes and revisions before publication. For example, academic and scientific journals have a review system in place—whether a peer-review process or an editorial board. Both feature panels of people with expertise in the areas under consideration. Publishers for books also feature editorial boards who determine the usefulness and accuracy of information.

          Of course, this does not mean that every peer-reviewed journal article or book is 100% accurate and useful all of the time. Biases still exist, and many commonly accepted facts change over time with more research and analysis. Overall, the process for these types of publications require that multiple people read and comment on the work, providing some checks and balances that are not present for general internet sources.

          Common Types of Library Sources

          • Research is not a linear process. It requires a back and forth between sources, your ideas and analysis, and the rhetorical situation for your research.

            The research process is a bit like an eye exam. The doctor makes a best guess for the most appropriate lens strength, and then adjusts the lenses from there. Sometimes the first option is the best and most appropriate; sometimes it takes a few tries with several different options before finding the best one for you and your situation.

            It is important to have a wide range of keywords because not all terms will result in the same information. Developing a list of keywords can be aided by a quick Google search. A Google search may reveal more official language or terms; broader or narrower terms and concepts; or related terms and concepts. You can also search for the term + synonym to find other words you might use. Keep in mind, a synonym search will not work for all terms. For technical and scientific topics, though, Google may not be a lot of help for finding other terms.

            You can use a couple different tricks to narrow your search. Using quotation marks around two or more words means the search results will contain those words only in that specific order. For example, based on the exercise above, a search for “homelessness in Saskatoon” would only provide results where these words appear in this exact order, with no words between them. A search for homelessness in Saskatoon without the quotation marks will search for those words, but also any sources that have the words homelessness and Saskatoon anywhere in the text.

            If you still are not sure where to start, or if you hit a wall, the librarians at the University of Saskatchewan are here to help! You can go to any of the libraries on campus to ask for help, or you can use the Ask Us feature on their website to talk to them directly from your computer.

            Determining a topic and finding relevant resources are only the beginning steps in the research process. Once you locate sources, you actually have to read them and determine how useful and relevant they are for your particular research context If you would like some tips on how to do that, please check out this page on Understanding and Documenting information in the appendix.

          The End of the Planning Phase

          Congratulations! You have made it through the planning phase of your the report writing process! You have already done a lot! By now you should have a focused topic and research question, used rhetorical theory to assess your audience and determine how design your message, and you have found some sources to use. Now it’s time to take all of that information and put it into a paper! We will be covering different strategies for that in the following couple of chapters.

          Key Takeaways

    This page titled 6.05: Chapter 27: Strategies For Conducting Research is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by .